Over this past decade, mental health has become a hot topic of conversation in the media and pop culture. Mainstream celebrities of a diverse range spanning from XXXTentacion to Demi Lovato and countless others in between have come forward about their own personal struggles with mental health and addiction. A topic so normalized today, that it is easy to forget that once upon a time it was frowned upon to even mention such struggles, especially in hip-hop.
On his newest EP, Kala Btz take us along for a deep dive through his own struggles as well as those that we collectively share as a generation. The title, “Instatution” brings to mind Suicidal Tendencies’ 1983 classic song “Institutionalized”. The connection seems intentional, as this is a record that wears the influence of hardcore on its sleeve. Industrial and Nu Metal influences also weave their way into many of the songs on this EP. Playing it front to back repeatedly, I am reminded that we are truly living in an age without boundaries when it comes to genre.
The introduction, “Cycle of Anger”, makes it clear the kind of journey we are going to be taken on throughout this EP. In this skit, we overhear a conversation, seemingly between Kala and some sort of therapist or counselor, where the narrator reveals some of the thoughts that run through his head in his darker moments. This leads into “Generation of Da Dead”, a slow burning combustion of industrial noise that sets the tone of the EP with harsh ambient soundscapes that dance around the speakers. The next song, “Mara”, shifts the rhythm into a more danceable hip-hop groove while contrasting this with low, cracked, almost whispered vocals.
“Enemy Within” is arguably the EP’s most accessible song, built around an anthemic hook that summarizes much of the message that this record seeks to deliver: “go on and judge, go on and judge like you ain’t human.” This marks a turning point in the EP. One more skit follows, which transitions the record into its peak of intensity on “Elevate”. This functions as the EP’s climax, delivering its final knockout punch to the demons which it inspires its listeners to fight. The song is an anthem of hope and determination: “I’m tryna make a change, I’m tryna elevate.”
Overall, this EP is a gradual buildup where each song seamlessly transitions into the next. It tells the story of intense internal struggle, one that is deeply personal yet also open enough to interpretation where it feels almost universal in a way. Anyone can apply the sentiments of this record to their own individual struggles: “Instatution” aims for relateability and it hits right on the bull’s eye. Kala is the EP’s vocalist, songwriter, producer, and mixer; the mastering was done by Jeremy Cox and the cover was designed by Destiny Washington. You can experience the full EP across a wide variety of platforms found here.